After a Brooklyn jury decided this past November that real estate developer Gerald Wolfkoff broke the law by whitewashing the graffiti art off the famous 5Pointz complex in Long Island City, Queens, five years ago, a federal judge awarded twenty-one of the 5Pointz artists $6.7 million in damages in a ruling on Monday, February 12, report Andrew Keshner and Stephen Rex Brown of the New York Daily News. The decision, handed over by Judge Frederic Block, covers forty-five of the pieces that were destroyed. Wolfkoff’s capriciousness in removing the works helped the judge to solidify his ruling, as the developer had allowed the buildings to be painted on for more than twenty years. The artists accused Wolfkoff of violating the Visual Artists Rights Act, or VARA, when he removed the works and razed the buildings. VARA is a statute that protects artworks of “recognized stature.”
“The shame of it all is that since 5Pointz was a prominent tourist attraction, the public would undoubtedly have thronged to say its goodbyes . . . and gaze at the formidable works of aerosol art for the last time. It would have been a wonderful tribute for the artists that they richly deserved,” Block wrote in his decision.
An apartment complex now stands at the former 5Pointz site.